Progress in Painting
Much of Raymond's subject matters in his earlier paintings are derived from Singaporean neighborhoods, making him a suitable cultural ambassador for Singapore's heart Landers. His first (The Experience Since September
22, 1993) and second (Reality: Seen and Imagined) solo exhibitions featured several scenes of dilapidated Chinatown
walls and forlorn windows, invoking a nostalgia for the past and, because of the prevailing desolation, regret at its passing.
The expressionism of his painting, typical of early LaSalle style, hints at a troubled, lost and above all, lonely psychological state, with solitary representational elements such as windows, doors,
postboxes and altars, adrift in mottled, textured walls of abstraction. By his fourth solo show, Canvas to Canvas,
the mamak stall had replaced Chinatown, the canvases are busier with more objects, and the people are more prominent,
although they seldom dominate the canvas. Obscuring planes cut across some paintings in the form of bamboo chicks, blinds
and tarpaulin, replacing the walls in providing dominant blocks of textured colour. Raymond seems busier, happier, more comfortable
with people, but perhaps still rather diffident about his talents. Above all, his paintings are in bright, bold colours,
which mark him as a daring colorist
and tropical painter.
As a local artist, Raymond goes beyond traditional and rather stereotypical street scenes of Chinatown
to portray familiar cityscapes with an edge, an air of psychological unease which leads the viewer to question issues of memories,
loss and solitude. The history behind the peeling paint and decaying fixtures is queried: what was this place before, what
transpired and who lived here? This air of tension continues in his mamak stalls, although the action is busier,
the human presence more palpable. With paintings from his latest series Motherland, the tension seems finally to
have dissipated as Raymond paints the kampungs of Riau in static, idyllic sunshine; the atmosphere is warm, the people
relaxed and friendly. This series seems to see Raymond at his most assured, his technique capturing attap houses, jetties
and boats with considerable skill, although his efforts in delineating human features remain exploratory at this point.
Pwee Keng Hock
December 2, 2002
based on conversation with Raymond on Sept 2, 2002